I got my bi-monthly reminder of why sports are so awesome yesterday afternoon.
I headed to the academy to watch the Air Force baseball team take on the nation’s fifth-ranked squad, TCU. I went planning to write a feature story about how the Falcons appeared lost in another dreadful season. And I was going to include one or two paragraphs about the beating they took from the Horned Frogs.
There were plenty of reasons to believe the game would unfold that way. TCU is the defending Mountain West Conference champion and had lost to Air Force just once in 19 all-time meetings. In 1997.
Air Force, meanwhile, brought a 5-16 record into the game and had just been swept by Hawai’i. Two of the Falcons’ victories came against Division II squads, and they’d given up 10 or more runs in 12 of their 21 games.
But there are no guarantees in sports (just ask my bookie from my college days) and I had that lesson pounded into my head again yesterday when the Falcons upended the Horned Frogs 14-11.
-Senior pitcher Alex Truesdale, who pitched seven gutty innings against an intimidating lineup. He pitched three innings of hitless baseball as Air Force went up 6-0 and then found the strength to get through a seventh inning when his arm was telling him to give up the ball.
“Before that inning, coach (Mike) Hutcheon came over to me and was like, ‘Do you want to go one more?’” Truesdale said. “And I was like, ‘You know, I don’t have my best stuff. It’s up to you if you want to go with Evan (Abrecht).’ And I think he originally told Evan he was going in. And then coach (Scott Marchand) – and I’ve been under coach March since I’ve been here – and he said, ‘In three years you’ve never said you’re not going to take another one. We need you now, you can’t do this.’ And I said, ‘You’re right, I’ve got to go get one more quick inning.’”
And he did.
-Abrecht, who struck out four in the final two innings to preserve the victory. He got the final out with the tying run at the plate.
“I looked at the scoreboard, and I realized our team fought hard the whole game and I was going to do everything to make sure we got that win,” he said.
-An offense that scored in each of the first seven innings and had a hit in each of the eight innings in which the Falcons batted.
Most noteworthy was the Falcons found a way to battle back after each TCU rally.
“That shows a lot of heart, a lot of guts on this field,” Truesdale said. “We were not going to lose to this team. It was exciting to see (Air Force’s batters) hit as well as the pitchers know they can after facing them through all of fall. It was exciting to see them hit the ball that well.”
-Senior first baseman Addison Gentry, who went 4-for-5 with two home runs, a triple and four RBIs.
-Freshmen Garrett Custons and Travis Lane, each of whom hit home runs.
Yes, it’s only one game. And yes, a program that has been stuck in last place and eternal rebuilding mode in Hutcheon’s seven seasons still is 6-16 on the season.
But for a day, at least, there was joy at Falcon Field.